Saturday, January 31, 2009

Imbolc 2009

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" on Imbolc weekend 2009! We are offering a great opportunity on a wonderful bored Goddess. Get Her now or get Her later, but by all means get Her!

That Goddess is Brighid, Goddess of creativity, home and hearth, and the fabulous She who laid her silver mantle across the Earth and made it hospitable for humans.

Perhaps because She loves creativity (and warm homes), Brighid never allowed Herself to be hustled into obscurity by more rapacious deities. She strolled into Christianity as St. Brigid, for the sole purpose of staying in our minds until we re-discovered her divinity.

Although we at "The Gods Are Bored" respect all aspects of the divine, Brighid is our Goddess of choice. Over the next week we'll try to make this site worthy of Her.

And now you're thinking, "Anne, you can't be serious long enough to make anything worthy of the Goddess."

To which I reply: "What makes you think the Goddess always wants to be serious, for the love of fruit flies?"

Light a fire. Read a book. Write a book. Hug your loved ones. Let that pesky silverfish run under the floorboard. Honor the Goddess Brighid in all that you do!

Our operators are standing by to take your call.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Roy's Story

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Why fly with the big flock? Find yourself a rare bird! Put it on your life list -- don't cook it in a pie!

Yesterday I sat down to write a post for TGAB in the library at the Vo-Tech. Another substitute teacher saw me and came over and started talking to me. I really wanted to blog, but he seemed very adamant about sharing a story idea he had with "someone who could really write it out."

To humor him, I opened Microsoft Word and started taking notes from his description.

The story was about a boy whose mother died at birth and whose father treated him harshly or indifferently, blaming him for his mother's death. But the boy was forgiving of all his father's faults. And secretly, the father was indeed attending the boy's sporting events, etc. Just not telling the kid.

Up comes a war, the boy enlists and starts writing his father letters from the front. Finally one day his father decides to write back, after never having answered any of the other letters. And as the father is writing, two servicemen come to the door to tell the father that his son has been killed.

I'm just typing this out as the guy is saying it. And I look over at the guy, and he's crying. Honest to Bored Gods, crying big tears! "Doesn't this sound tragic?" he asked.

I said, "Did something like this happen to you?"

No, he said. He was just moved by this particular tale, that the father would actually be writing a confessional letter to his son just as the soldiers were coming to tell the father he'd lost the son.

It's funny, the stories we tell ourselves and the various themes that move us to tears. Personally I am more likely to cry at happy endings, or in stories or films that wax philosophical about our relationship to one another.

Roy thinks I could write his story and make it a best-seller. I didn't disabuse him of this notion, not after seeing how deeply he felt about this tale he can't tell himself.

Lighter note: On my facebook, I listed this date as my birthday. It's actually my sister's birthday. Today I'm getting best wishes from all my Facebook friends! I feel like I've stolen something valuable from Sis. Shame on me!

And by the way, if you've been trying to befriend me on Facebook and haven't heard back, I was having some trouble getting the request thingy to work. So try again! Or, you don't have to. My best stuff goes on here at "The Gods Are Bored."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Dogs Are Bored

Welcome to "The Dogs Are Bored!" Canines! Have we got canines! Baby bichons, beautiful beagles, darling dachshunds, yummy yorkies, marvelous mutts, and pretty pitties!

Heck, when you get two dozen comments on a dog story, makes you re-think what you usually write about! Maybe I should just switch those consonants around.

On the other hand, I don't know a lot about dogs. I go to the animal shelter to pick up foster kittens, and there'll be a passel of pit bull mix puppies rolling around on the floor, and I hardly bother to reach down and pet 'em. (Well, actually I do.) I'm just not a dog person. They're okay, but cats and parrots are easier to care for, if not as devoted.

Today I'm going to admit that the government has been buying me lunch.

I was given a tutoring position to help the students at the Vo-Tech prepare for their high school proficiency test. For most students this test is pretty easy, or at least passable. My students are Hispanic mostly, and African American, the rest. They find the test a tough go.

Most of my students qualify for federally-funded lunches. Since they come to tutoring over their lunch period, I call the cafeteria and have their lunches brought to them. They get a brown bag with a sandwich, chocolate milk, and juice or fruit.

One day one of my students said, "I only want juice."

So I called the cafeteria, and the conversation went something like this:

Anne: Placing an order to be brought to the library.

Faceless voice: Go ahead.

Anne: Student number 090909090. She only wants juice.

Faceless voice: We can't do that.

Anne: What do you mean?

Faceless voice: She has to order a whole lunch.

Anne: How much is just juice? I'll pay for it.

Faceless voice: We can't do that.

Anne: Oh all right, send lunch. But be sure there's juice in there.

When my student got her bag lunch, there was no juice in it. She gave me the whole lunch. A few days later, another student just wanted milk and juice, but he had to get a sandwich too. He gave me the sandwich.

Don't even ask about the skinny little fellow who only likes peanut butter and jelly. He hasn't been able to eat lunch in two weeks, since they recalled all the peanut butter. He keeps asking me how much longer I think it'll be before the school gets peanut butter again.

I have a jar of nice, safe Jif right in my cupboard. I could easily make my student a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and bring it to him at the school.

But of course I can't do that.

Want to save some government funds, Barack Obama? Let them drink JUST JUICE. For the love of fruit flies!

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Dark Side of Pet Love

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," food for thought or something like that since 2005!

Tonight's sermon: When Good Pet Owners Go Bad

I have an acquaintance here in Snobville who I'll call Wanda. Wanda's daughter went to a sleep-over at the home of a prominent local surgeon. This surgeon is keen on a breed of purebred dog called the Rhodesian Ridgeback. The breed in question was created in Rhodesia, principally to kill lions.

During the course of the sleep-over, Wanda's daughter was cavorting with one of the doctor's Rhodesian Ridgebacks. The dog turned on her and bit her savagely. The surgeon, being a doctor, did some doctoring to try to hide the severity of the puncture wounds. But, I'm not sure how much later, Wanda took her daughter to a plastic surgeon and found out that the wounds were deep and would leave scar tissue that would never go away.
Needless to say, Wanda went to the police with this information and tried to have the dog in question put down as a menace. Wanda was unsuccessful. The local judge (who lives across the street from me) ordered the surgeon to install a fence around his property and put the dog in a muzzle when it went outside.

Some time after that, another of this surgeon's pack of four Rhodesian Ridgebacks charged a little boy out walking with his father. The little boy's mom was a prominent news anchor in Philadelphia until her son was born. Now the story got bigger. Another angry mother, demanding that these dogs be curtailed with due diligence.

One thing led to another, as it always does, and the various anti-Rhodesian Ridgeback complaints wound their way into county court. There the judge ruled that the surgeon could remove his fence and un-muzzle his dogs. The girl who got bit deserved it -- so said the judge -- and the business with the little boy wasn't serious at all. Just a dog being a dog.

Snobville is an old suburb, and the yards are very small. Mine is so tiny I don't even own a teeny iddy biddy dog. I can't imagine a dog being satisfied with my outdoor space and the twice-daily walk. I have to agree with the aggrieved moms that this town is not the proper environment for purebred dogs whose initial purpose was to kill lions.

What bothers me the most is that this surgeon is unapologetic for his canines. Maybe you can see his point of view, but I can't.

I love my cats and my parrot. I even put my parrot out on the porch in the summertime, where he could bite the moron child who stuck fingers into the cage. However, if my parrot bit a kid, even if it's my fault for putting the parrot outside, I would have the parrot put down. People come before animals in my book.

(I am fortunate that Decibel the Parrot announces his intentions before he carries them out. Otherwise I would never put him outside to begin with.)

It's my opinion that a biting dog should be put down, except in cases where the dog was being killed itself if it didn't defend its life. And certainly a person with the education it takes to be a surgeon should examine his priorities and not load his house to the plimsol line with dogs bred to be aggressive.

What do you think, reader? Should a dog that has bitten a teenager deep enough to scar her for life be allowed to roam the streets of Snobville, even on a leash?

I'm going to file this post under morons, not because I don't think anyone should own a Rhodesian Ridgeback, but because I think if you're going to choose to own four Rhodesian Ridgebacks, you should damn well get an acre of ground and a nice stout fence, liberally plastered with "Beware of the Dog" signs.

As much as I love all living things, if a dog charged my child, I'm afraid I'd ply the old Louisville Slugger with extreme prejudice. Which makes me a moron, too, I guess.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Pet Paradox

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Meeeowww. Bow wow! SQWAAAAAAAK! ACK ACK ACK!!!!!

Ah, pets. What would we do without them?

I have two cats, Alpha and Beta. Alpha's getting up in years, so she moves slow and is non-obtrusive. Beta is in the prime of life. She's an ugly shorthaird rescue cat who lurks in my bedroom, waits for any sign of life from me in the morning, and leaps on me to be petted.

If you've ever had a cat, chances are you've experienced something like this.

Saturday morning, I stirred just a little to get more comfortable just as morning gilded the skies. Beta pounced. Woke me from a justly deserved sleep-in. Woke Mr. Johnson too.

I said to Mr. Johnson, "I am so sick of this cat. We never asked for her, she just moved in. I am so tired of her waking me up every morning."

And with that, I shoved Beta off the bed rather more brusquely than usual.

Undaunted, she came leaping right back, demanding her massage. (She never tips.)

I said to Mr. Johnson, "If this cat just disappeared, I think I could live with it."

Later in the day, my daughter The Spare got into one of her rough-up-the-cat moods. To me, this was the only reason we adopted Beta. Alpha was getting too delicate for rough-up-the-cat.

Spare asked if she could rough up the cat. I said, "Go ahead, she's been waking me up. It's so annoying."

(For the record, rough-up-the-cat is not a violent, sadistic sport, but rather an over-enthusiastic teenaged "kissy kissy.")

So I heard all this kissy-kissy coming from the bedroom. And some "booga booga booga." And some "sweet lil' kitty kitty kitty." And I thought, "Beta has it coming to her."

That was Saturday. On Sunday morning, I woke up, and Beta did not pester me. I went downstairs for a cup of tea, and only Alpha greeted me. A quick check of the cat food indicated that Beta hadn't been chowing overnight. It was in the low 20s outside.

On the pretext of getting the newspaper, I went outside. If Beta had been out all night, just that much activity would have rousted her. No Beta.

An hour passed. Alpha hates Beta, but Alpha gets a little anxious when Beta's not around. I was starting to get anxious too. No Beta on a Sunday morning? Where could she be?

By and by I heard footsteps on the second floor. It was the Spare, headed straight for Facebook. I climbed the stairs and said to her, "Have you seen Beta?" And the Spare answered, "She's in my bedroom, sacked out in the clothes."

Sure enough, there was Beta, half asleep in that mess of girly stuff that every teenage room sports to the plimsol line.

I leaned down and examined her. Could the rough-up-the-cat have gone too far? Her eyes were half shut. She didn't purr when I petted her. Only after prodding did she get up and go downstairs. She ate. Then she disappeared again. A few hours later, I found her sunning herself on the back porch.

I gave her a massage. She purred. She was fine.

If you ask me what is most wacky about our species, I would say it's the relationship we have with our pets. We are not the only species that keeps pets. Race horses often perform better if they have a cat or goat in their stalls. Mother cats will raise baby rats. Dogs will parent ducklings. But we as humans stand alone in our consideration of pets as sacred.

One morning I'm heaping derision on my cat. The next morning I'm seeking her, anxious for her safety.

Convince me that I'm the only person who acts this way, and I'll give you my house.

Tomorrow we will explore the dark side of this pet paradox. It ain't always pretty, folks.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Goddess Does Not Permit Hard Feelings

This is an update on the nasty post below about my uncle. Actually it's a short treatise on the Mysteries of Queen Brighid the Bright.

After finishing the post, I went downstairs (stone cold sober) to do more housework. Then I decided to call my mother-in-law, who just had knee surgery two weeks ago.

Except the number I called (stone cold sober) was the family farm in the mountains.

And my cousin picked up.

I was so confused hearing a male voice that I hung up. Then I realized what I'd done.

I still called my mother-in-law, but she didn't answer. So I called the family farm again. Cousin picked up again. I asked about his dad. He said, "Wanna talk to him?" I said yeah, and in an instant Foggy was on the line.

We had a nice chat, as always dominated by him, but he's okay and in no mortal peril. I may go to see him this summer and time my visit conveniently for "drum and splash" at Four Quarters Farm.

That way, when he starts ranting on the wonders of Rush Limbaugh, I can seek out my own people, skinny-dip a little, and commune with the Goddess Who Does Not Permit Hard Feelings.


When Little Things Pile Up

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Shout-out to bored deities: Come help with my housework! Gone are the days when the economy was humming, and I had good work, and I could stimulate the economy further by hiring a housekeeper! And gone too the housekeeper, may she rest in peace.

Two nights ago I had a dream that contained a portent. I believe my uncle Foggy is soon to go across the divide.

Foggy is his real name. Well, of course it's a nickname, but he got it as a teenager, and it stuck, and he's tall, so it fits.

In October Foggy turned 82. He was the oldest of my dad's two brothers, and is now the longest-lived.

I only sent one Christmas card this year, and it was to Foggy. I didn't hear back. He could be very sick, and my cousins wouldn't tell me. It's complicated.

At one time, years ago, Foggy and I were thick. I adored him. But as I grew into adulthood, his eternally youthful behavior was revealed for what it really was -- childishness unsuitable to an adult.

I began to notice that Foggy would monopolize a conversation. If he took a trip, he would take 1000 photographs, slap them in an album, and then offer a lengthy oratory on each and every one. Well, that's easy enough to forgive. We all have an old uncle who likes to do that.

But when my grandparents fell ill, and Foggy was unemployed and living with them, I finally had to face the fact that my beloved uncle was impulsive, selfish, and stubborn. Once again, it's not easy dealing with an ailing parent, but Foggy didn't suffer the difficulties easily. He complained bitterly. At that time I was living in Detroit. He wrote me long letters detailing the horrors of his life. I saved them. Eventually I gave them back to him.

By and by my grandparents both died, within 10 months of one another. In a sort of gentleman's agreement, the members of my family decided to allow Foggy to live in the family farm we all co-own ... no rent ... just keep the place up. This worked wonderfully for him, as all the money he had was his meagre social security check. And he didn't drive, but even in the remote mountains there are helpful neighbors. He wintered with his family in Cleveland.

Having witnessed Foggy's treatment of my dying granddad, I became mostly estranged from Foggy. He did not bear up under this nicely either. But finally I tried to put all that behind me and go see him again.

One evening I arrived at the farm, and this is what he said: "I can't wait until tomorrow morning. I want you to hear this fellow on the radio. His name is ... Rush Limbaugh." As he said Rush's name, Foggy's eyes gleamed as if he'd said God Almighty.

True to form, Foggy launched into a long diatribe straight out of Rush's playbook, about how America should be conservative, that most of us are conservative by nature, etc. etc. etc. For hours. Big government and its handouts! Down with that! (This from a guy living rent-free on $500 government handout dollars a month.)

At that moment I knew my relationship with Foggy would never be restored, although we have always continued on friendly terms.

When my dad was dying, all he wanted was a visit from Foggy. Foggy was living 60 miles away, on the farm. My cousin was there with Foggy, and they had a working vehicle. But that 60 miles proved too daunting for Foggy. He never came to visit, nor did any of his children. My dad's other brother's son drove all the way up from Norfolk, Virginia to see Dad.

This was the toughest pill to swallow, hearing my gentle dad say, "Gosh, I wish Fog would drop in," as he lay there in his hospital bed.

I even got on the phone and begged Foggy to come. He said he would. But somehow he never traversed that 60 miles.

Some of this has to do with my cousin, who is the kind of person who doesn't want anyone to tell him what to do. (Wonder where he got that trait?)

I know, from hearing the things Foggy's said to me about my sister, that he can back-bite like a hungry skeeter. So I imagine him sitting with his family in Cleveland, complaining about my neglect of him. (He's too ill to live at the farm anymore. Either the house is vacant or my cousin is using it, I don't know which.)

Here comes this dream that warns me he's dying. I still can't pick up that phone. The last time he talked to me, he spent 90 minutes detailing his every ill, barely noticed when I said I was going in for surgery myself, and he failed to ask about my daughters, even after a 30-minute monologue on his granddaughter.

We are supposed to forgive people their faults. I've tried to do that. But every time I speak to Foggy, I have to start all over with the forgiveness. If he's suffering, he has his family, two patient daughters and a son.

When I think of Foggy now, he's a happy part of my childhood. I hope the bad dream doesn't come true. But I'm afraid it will, or has already and I just wasn't informed.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Beautiful, Beautiful Buzzards

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," your premiere outlet for vulture worship on the World Wide Web! Where would we be, I ask you, without vultures? Consider the plight of India, where steroid use in cattle has decimated the vulture population. In its place there's been an explosion of feral dogs -- and decaying carcasses, including the enlightened Farsis who dedicate their mortal remains to the sky.

One of my most pleasant memories of recent weeks is the afternoon when my daughter the Heir and I went buzzarding. It was her suggestion, because she wanted to see me happy.

How does one buzzard? (I've made up my own verb! Cool, huh?)

In the hamlet of Wenonah, New Jersey, there are clusters of tall pines in peoples' backyards. The countryside around Wenonah has been slash-and-burn developed in recent years, but there's still an active landfill in the area.

Every evening beginning about an hour before sundown, vultures by the dozens descend upon the pines of Wenonah in that inimitable vulturous way, soaring in with nary a wing flap, then suddenly alighting in a tree. Eventually the trees become packed with buzzards, all jostling one another for the best roosting limbs. Kind of like an extra large Christmas tree decorated with big black birds, all moving around restlessly.

I suppose most people would not find this entrancing, but I do.

For the first time on this particular buzzarding expedition, the Heir and I actually heard the buzzards making sounds. Vocalization is not something vultures are known for. Nightingales they are not. But when they've got a claw around a good roosting branch, and another of their kind challenges them for it, they emit a noise that's like a combination of a hiss and a quack. I've never heard anything quite like it. I tried to duplicate it with my vocal chords but couldn't. And I can caw like a crow -- and get the crows to respond.

We all must strive to improve ourselves as we pass through life, never stopping and heaving a sigh of satisfaction at the status quo. I am therefore dedicating myself to learning the vulture vocalization.

So if you're in my neighborhood, and you hear somthing hissing, it's probably me. If you hear a bagpipe, that's the dude in the next block who is not allowed to practice his instrument in the house.

This is the time of year when I begin my vulture posts in anticipation of the blessed East Coast Vulture Festival. It is held in Wenonah, New Jersey. No leap of logic in that.

Remember to keep the Sacred Thunderbirds in your hearts and souls, dear readers. They are Mother Nature's golden purifiers.

Want to learn more? Our operators are standing by to take your call.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," reassuring bland blather in a topsy-turvy world! Think of us as as a comfy McDonald's at a rest stop on the turnpike of life. You want to super-size that?

Lots of people were steamed when President Obama (still loves it) invited Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inauguration. We all know why President O did it. Gotta try to woo the Christian fringe that thinks Obama's either a communist or a Muslim, or both. (This is a mighty small fringe, I hope, but it is out there.)

Sometimes things work out better than you hope. Warren's invocation was blander than the blandest post ever churned out by the staff of "The Gods Are Bored." In contrast, the benediction offered by Joseph Lowery just crackled with righteous flame. Practically a smackdown of Mr. Purpose Driven Life, and certainly an uplifting moment no matter what religion you choose to follow.

Needless to say, President Obama did not include Pagans in his shout-out to all the different races, faiths, and sexual identities out there. Does that mean that Pagans don't have to pay federal taxes? I don't think I'm going to take a chance on that one.

I've lived to see the day when an African American man sits in the White House. I hope I live to see the day when the swearing-in of a new president eschews the Bible and the "so help me God" because Pagans have become numerous enough to command attention and respect.

If I live to see the day when a Druid offers the benediction at a presidential inauguration, I will hate to die, because the nation will truly be an interesting place.

I'm Anne Johnson, and I approve this message.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Five minutes until scheduled outage! Type fast, Anne!

Tonight's post on Rick Warren, Barack Obama, and Niccolo Machiavelli will be re-scheduled for tomorrow, or whenever Anne has a minute, or whenever Blogger isn't scheduling an outage.

Or whenever the bored gods bestow upon Anne a free moment.

Blessings to all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Navel Gazing

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where you never know what a well-scripted day will bring! Inevitably some actor's gonna blow the entrance or miss the mark. And another one will pick up the slack. Come to think of it, this is an argument for the holy workings of polytheism.

I went off to work today as a tutor for African American and Hispanic teenagers at the local Vo-Tech. As might be imagined, they were pretty pumped about this inauguration.

My daughter The Spare had persuaded her dad to come get her from school so they could watch the swearing-in together at home. Alas and alack. The Spare was watching the pre-swearing ceremony in the auditorium at Snobville High, checking her cell phone every other minute to make sure she didn't miss the time when her dad was coming to pick her up. A teacher nabbed the phone. Dad arrived at the school, but the office staff couldn't find The Spare. By the time The Spare got her phone back, Dad had returned to Chateau Johnson -- and The Spare missed the swearing-in and the speech.

Meantime, I was watching same in a classroom with a business teacher and about a dozen seniors of color. Out in the cafeteria there was rowdy cheering when Obama finished his oath (in a most un-Constitutional way, blah on that "So help me God."). But the seniors in the business shop were serious throughout. Reality is setting in with them. They know they soon will be sailing into the jobless blight outside, and they're hoping President Obama.....


Anyway, next thing I know I'm being hunted throughout the school like some fugitive from a chain gang. Informed of this, I hustled to the principal's office, readying my excuse for allowing the 6th period tutorees to watch the inauguration instead of answering multiple choice questions about Tom Sawyer.

The principal radiated concern. The Spare had phoned the Vo-Tech in obvious distress. Can you believe that the principal of the Vo-Tech vacated her office so I could call The Spare back? (I know this honeymoon can't last forever.)

Spare sobbed: "I missed it."

Remember how I said I was going to be at work during Barack Obama's inauguration? One should never make bold statements.

As luck would have it, my ninth period tutoree was absent. So I signed out of work, drove back to Snobville, and pulled The Spare out of class. She was very touched that I did that. She was also concerned that her dad might have missed the swearing-in, because he was raised in Baltimore, same age as John Waters more or less, and he knows something about racism.

Here's where the magic enters. Yesterday, on Martin Luther King Day, we had a little meeting here at Chateau Johnson. The Spare is the president of the local chapter of the Children of the American Revolution. As our Day of Service project, we made treat bags for the 52 homeless veterans at the nearby veterans' center. Well, you know that all Children of the American Revolution bashes have to start with a pledge to the flag. I had to ask an adult helper to bring a flag -- and she brought one of those kinds they put on servicemen's gravestones.

So the Spare missed the swearing-in, and here we stood in the house, staring at a little grave flag. Spare said: "Let's go to the cemetery."

When President Obama (ooooooo! I am gonna faint with joy!) won the nomination, the Spare and I took our Obama/Biden lawn sign and put it in a "colored cemetery" where more than 100 African American Civil War veterans are interred. That's where we went today, with the flag.

The Obama/Biden sign was still where we left it, among the African American Union Dead. The Spare affixed the American flag to the sign, and we told the spirits: "Your day has come."

Then we went and got a Philadelphia cheesesteak and some fries, and we laughed with the other people at the sandwich shop about how glad we were to see George Bush go. Then poor Spare trudged into the dentist office and had four cavities filled. The novocaine has still not worn off. She looks like Elvis.

It's funny how things work out. I had planned to be at the Vo-Tech when Barack Obama became president, and I was. But by strange twists of fate, I also wound up making a memory with the Spare.

There won't be many people who, when asked where they were on the day Barack Obama was sworn in, will answer: "In a rime of snow amongst the holy Union Dead, proclaiming that they did not perish in vain."

Yep, that cemetery wasn't crowded ... with living people, anyway.

May all the bored deities everywhere bless Barack Obama and guide him, and us, back into a place of sanity and pride.


I believed my daughter The Spare when she said that her teachers at Snobville High would not be showing the inauguration, except the world civ teacher she has from 1:45 to 2:30, when it will be over. So I wrote her a note to come home with her dad.

As for me, I'm going to work. But it's slippery as a rink outside this morning, both Camden public schools are closed, and the Vo-Tech -- although open -- draws its student body from Camden.

If five students are absent, I will be able to leave work early and watch the inauguration with my daughter. If not, I will be able to watch the inauguration on a big-screen t.v. in a classroom filled with minority students who adore Barack Obama.

There's no losing proposition here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

National Night of Prayer

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" And so we have sailed the seas and have come...

To the final night of the George W. Bush presidency and the dawn of a day I never would ever have thought possible.

Yesterday after I dropped The Heir off for her second term of college, I heard on the radio that a pastor from the Philadelphia African Methodist Episcopal Church has asked everyone to engage in serious prayer Monday night in anticipation of the transition to the Obama presidency.

I doubt that the pastor in question thought that people would be praying to bored gods on behalf of President Obama (OH THAT NAME SOUNDS LOVELY). But here is my personal inaugural prayer:

O great Gods and Goddesses of the ancestors of Barack Obama.

Ye gods of dark skin, whose people were wrenched from their homelands and from Your praise, whose people were thrown into chains and tormented unto ten generations, ye gods whose existence has been denigrated by white-skinned missionaries with powerful antibiotics: Stand at the right shoulder of Barack Obama, child of Your creation. Be with him, and us, as this new era dawns.

O great Goddess, Queen Brighid the Bright, shower your sweet love upon Barack Obama and the people of America. May we all learn tolerance and respect from his example. May we live to see the day when all children of all Gods and Goddesses can rise up and say, "We are here! Our deities are great! Prepare a place at our national table for Them. And so shall They bless us, every one."

A new man goes to the White House. But there are still bridges to build. A bridge for Gay. A bridge for Pagan. A bridge for Newcomer. A bridge for the big, broad, flexible outlook.

And there are bridges to burn. The bridge of Greed. The bridge of Me First. The bridge of Mine Is the Only Way. Light the matches, kindle the flame, tear down those walls.

May there be peace throughout the world. Awen. Awen. Awen.

Well now. Isn't that a nice prayer? Not bad after a long Day of Service, if I might say so myself. Time to feed the cats!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bob or the Buzzards?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," occasionally -- very, very occasionally -- tackling a serious topic! Today's is a whopper.

When I was a teen I had a very good friend, male, who was 10 years my senior. He was the leader of the church youth group, and, unlike so many youth leaders, he never hit on any of the girls. Or the boys. He was a straight arrow.

He went on to be a regional leader in Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. He adopted the boy he fostered as a Big Brother. He also raised that boy's daughter. In the mid-1990s he ran for the state legislature and won in his little rural district. After his first election he was re-elected several times. He ran unopposed because no one wanted to waste their time trying to unseat such a popular delegate.

Last year it was discovered that this man's computer was chock-a-block with child pornography, the most graphic kind, the most heinous offenses. No one came forward to accuse the man of any actual abuse, and the videos were not of him, but needless to say the law moved in.

My onetime friend and mentor has drawn a 37-month sentence at a low security prison 30 miles from my house. This prison is quite some distance from his hometown, in another state entirely. It's safe to say the guy isn't going to get many visitors.

I feel like I ought to go and see Bob, but doggone if I can think of what I would say. The details of what he did are atrocious, even though he himself never touched a child (that we know of).

Honestly, readers, I need your feedback on this. Do I go see Bob? Or not? If so, what do I talk about? I cannot and will not condone what he's done or absolve him in any way, even if he says he is insane. On the other hand, it pains me to think of him sitting down there, so far from home, with no prospects of gainful employment or comfort when his sentence expires.

Perhaps I should just abandon him to the Pine Barrens and go watch the buzzards in Wenonah. I'm really stuck on how to handle this one. Bob, or the buzzards?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Where Will You Be?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," the mid-life ramblings of no one in particular! Fire ants have a more exciting life than me. But that's okay. Boring is better than catastrophic.

Occasionally I watch MSNBC at night. Yesterday evening I saw a commercial. It showed heroic portraits of Barack Obama, with heroic music, and asked the question, "Where will you be when history is made?"

This having to do of course with the inauguration. And of course the implication is, WATCH MSNBC.

Thanks for the invitation, Keith and Rachel, but I'll be at work.

When I was a kid, my parents wouldn't have dreamed of keeping me home from school to witness a historic event on television. I consider myself fortunate to have been a preschooler in the John Glenn era, because I saw all those rocket liftoffs and splashdowns. Also, I believe that the moon landing was in the summertime when I didn't have school.

Otherwise, for good or ill, I work through everything that isn't posing an immediate threat to my life and limb. On 9/11 I watched the event unfold for about 90 gut-wrenching minutes, and then I said to myself, "Damn. I'm going to work." And I did. In those years I worked at home, was my own boss, and could set my own hours. Skyscraper 100 miles away attacked and destroyed? I'm not there. Back to work. I'll grieve later.

I am 100 percent certain that Barack Obama is going to be a far, far better president than the pile of barely sentient protoplasm he's replacing. But is all this hoopla beneficial to our national psyche? I've heard parents say they're keeping their kids home from school that day. My daughter The Spare has declared she's staying home that day. (Nope, sorry, you're not.)

Did anyone propose that we stay home and watch Jimmy Carter be sworn in? Presidential inaugurations are fabulous events, full of optimism, but how genuinely historic are they? The quotable moments get played over and over ("Ask not what your country can do for you..."). The rest is a parade and some prayers.

You may really disagree with me on this because of Mr. Obama's race and his spectacular success story. Okay, convince me to stay home next Tuesday. Hit me with your best shot, fire away.

Coming soon: Treatise on the Rick Warren inaugural prayer.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Weird Ways of the Bored Gods

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," marvelous manifestations of multiple miracles since 2005! I'm your host, Anne Johnson. If you address me, please be sure to include the "e" on the end of my name. It's a sign of class.

In August of 2004 I lost the job I'd held and loved for 20 years. I would have been devastated, except my dad had suffered a terrible accident the same week -- I was more worried about him.

But as the weeks and months wore on, the lack of income became more and more distressing. Then Dad died early in 2005, and within a few months my efficient and morally upstanding sister had dispersed to me my share of his estate.

These funds kept us going at Chateau Johnson while I got the certification to be a substitute teacher. I was planning to substitute at Snobville High School, the whip-cracker of an institution that my daughter attends.

In the summer of 2005 my daughters and I took a day trip to the Jersey Shore, there to spend some time on the beach with my daughter The Heir's friend, who I'll call May. While the teens lolled on the beach, I chatted with May's mom back at the bungalow she'd rented. I told May's mom about my employment problems, and how I planned to start subbing at Snobville High.

She said to me, "I'm the principal of the Vo-Tech. It's an eight minute drive from Snobville. You should put in your paperwork with us."

The Vo-Tech draws its students from Camden, a city that will probably regain its distinction as the murder capital of America when the next list rolls around. But from Day One I liked the Vo-Tech. You know, kids are kids, and you're going to have smart alecks everywhere. But the difference between Snobville High (where I subbed a little) and the Vo-Tech (where I subbed more and more) is that the kids at Snobville look right through substitute teachers as if they don't exist. Boy, I hated that.

When an English teacher went out from the Vo-Tech for a prolonged operation and recuperation, I got my first long-term sub job. Smack in the middle I got a little certificate that isn't exactly a teaching certificate, but sort of a certificate that could lead to a certificate. If you've ever had to deal with state bureaucracy, you know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, I moved myself up through the substitute ranks at the Vo-Tech. Last week I started working at the Vo-Tech as an English tutor. My employer is the federal government, No Child Left Behind. In the haste to push and shove Americans up to the academic standards of the rest of the world, kids like the students at the Vo-Tech just struggle like salmon leaping up a waterfall. I'm here to help them now, every school day.

The point of all of this is that the bored gods work in weird ways. I never thought I'd become any kind of teacher, let alone a tutor of inner city kids. Besides that, I never would have thought I would enjoy doing it. I spent 20 years sitting alone in a home office, writing reference books. I liked that. But I find I also like being around people.

To whatever Goddess threw me this opportunity, I would like to say, "Thank you. I intend to be a civil servant who actually serves."

Please wish me luck. Of course it's still part-time contract work with no benefits, but it's a paycheck. But more important, it's something I can do, and something that could help two dozen minority students get their high school diplomas. And we all know how important that is.

I never petitioned the bored gods for this opportunity. Not with the world the way it is, so many people out of work, out of homes, starving in Third World countries. But some sweet Goddess somewhere just placed this in my lap. How nice of Her!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rat Fink

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," strolling down memory lane into a day when kids played with toys! When I was young, my sandbox was my best friend.

Nowadays you see these plastic portable sandboxes that have lids. A sandbox with a lid! Heck, what's a little cat crap in your sandbox? Didn't kill me. Here I sit.

My dad built my sandbox, and it was the envy of all my friends. Every spring he would buy two or three big bags of white sand, dump them in the box, and Sis and I would go to town.

In those days there was a hot rod culture with an artist named Big Daddy Roth. He created a leering critter called Rat Fink for the speedster set. And someone got the idea to mass produce little plastic Rat Finks in all sorts of colors, lock them into round plastic pods, and shove them in gumball machines. You could buy a Rat Fink from a gumball machine for a nickel. And that was in the reach of even the poorest kid.

Sis and I had a whole village worth of Rat Finks. (Those original ones with the whiskers are now selling for fifty bucks a pop on Ebay. Even in this economy.) I had one I particularly loved that was a unique magenta color. And another that was orange and had whiskers. Both got stolen. I was in eighth grade at the time -- too cool for toys? No way. I cried.

Many and many a sunny afternoon, Sis and I (and maybe a cousin or friend or two) would build whole complex communities of buildings and roads and pools and balconies for our Rat Finks. The sandbox was a world unto itself. Each Rat Fink had a name, and a personality, and likes and dislikes. Some lived together in spacious holes with cubbies to sleep in. Some were lone wolves on high crags, staring down like the Grinch ... plotting. The Rat Finks were perfect for the sandbox because they could be hosed down at the end of the day, and all the sand came off them.

At one time when I was about nine and Sis about five, we must have had three dozen Rat Finks between us. But you know how it is. You play with something, it gets away, you don't find it, or Mom thinks you're through with it and throws it out. Of that vast treasure trove, Sis has only one original Rat Fink left. I have none. We replenished our supply about 15 years ago when Big Daddy Roth's web site issued repros. I can still see my dad's face light up when I showed him a handful of repro little plastic Rat Finks and asked him to choose his favorite color for his key chain. (He chose purple. Sis has that one now.)

If you're keen to have a repro plastic key chain Rat Fink, you can get one here. They're cheaper by the dozen. I think.

Sometimes I see the little girls next door playing in their plastic sandbox with a lid. First of all, the lid limits how much sand can be in the box. Second, the toys they use in the sandbox are shovels and pails. Sis and I didn't have either. We used our hands and arms, and the skill of our fingers as we dexterously crafted living quarters and surrounding amenities for sharp-toothed, wide-grinned Rat Finks.

In this fabulous portrait, you can just make out the necklace of Rat Finks my daughter The Heir wore to the 2007 Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm. The Heir loves her Finks, wearing the necklace only on the most special occasions.

As for me, my repro guys are scattered here and there. I'm afraid to gather them up as a group, because Sis is having the very devil of a time with a tricky little faerie who's inciting hers to riot. (See below.)

I think what I liked about Rat Finks was that they had no inherent identity beyond a certain likable badness. They weren't animals, they weren't people, they certainly weren't little clothes horses with big tits and accessories. Didn't seem to matter to Sis and me that the gender was uniformly male. In Rat Fink world the rules were different. No guys, no gals, just individuals who behaved in predictable ways.

Keep your gaming systems. As for me and my house, we will play with Rat Finks.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Ongoing Magic of Grizzabella the Faerie

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," partying with pantheons too often ignored! Some deities are busy, others need work. So pray for the bored gods. Throw them some perks!

My sister has always loved teeny tiny things. I did too when I was little. We had a whole village of trolls and Rat Finks and little rubber eraser animals and space aliens, the kind of stuff you got from a gumball machine for a nickel, back in the day. The difference between Sis and me is that Sis kept all her stuff. Mine got lost or tossed.

It's starting to make sense to me that leaving a teeny tiny gumball machine faerie at Sis's house, hidden in a drawer, was just the thing to do. Not that I am attributing any special powers to this particular faerie (named Grizzabella). Its just that her size and appearance has helped her blend into my sister's menagerie. And take control, in that Only Faerie way.

Here she is, teaching my sister's Rat Finks to do the Electric Slide. It was New Year's Eve, Sis tells me, and the Finks got a little too much gasoline in their britches or something.

What's interesting about Grizzabella is that she spent almost a year hidden in a dark drawer, and when she was discovered, she liberated all the other old teeny tiny toys from their dark storage as well. Sis hasn't messed with the Rat Finks and the rubber animals for decades. All of a sudden, she's going to be mounting an art exhibit of the photos she's taking of them!

Kind of makes me wish that faeries would put their talents to serious use. We'd have world peace, instead of Rat Finks doing the Electric Slide.

Some folks might say this means that faeries are not serious spiritual beings. Well, ahem. How come all those serious angels haven't gotten the World Peace thing done, then? My guess is, when kick-turn comes to shimmy, angels are just as flippant as the fae.


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," painting precious portaits of popular pantheons since 2005! Has a deity done you dirty? Ditch that dud! The soul you save may be your own.

There's only one thing worse than being too busy, and that's not being busy enough. I've had quite enough of the latter over the past few years, and it's always led to worries about keeping rooves over heads and chickens in the pots. So now the worm has turned, I'm maxed out with duties to others, family, and self. Behold yet another multi-tasker, o ye bored gods!

I must run off to work, but before I do, rest assured that the foster cats, Bamp and Bambi, are recovering nicely and starting to tame up just swell. I'll try to remember to get The Heir to take some pictures of them. If I haven't lost The Heir in the shuffle. No, there she is. My precious. Asleep.

Good day!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Do You Remember High School?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," pondering big questions since 2005! Today's big question: Who cares?

I have commenced my new job as a tutor preparing students for the state's high school proficiency test. You cannot obtain a high school diploma in this state without passing all parts of this test.

In preparation for my duties I've been taking sample HSP tests. And I've come to think that, in order to live in New Jersey, one must be a rocket scientist.

One of the reading samples was Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech. Have you perused that little item lately? A tough slog, even for a T. Rex of a reader like me. As I read it, I kept thinking, "What? Huh? Say again? Hey, Pat, how about using an easier word?"

I'm a college graduate.

Who makes up these tests? Wow, damn good thing I don't have to take the Math portion. I'd lose my high school diploma!

Today I open the floor to you, readers. How hard is too hard? Should a high school graduate be able to read any college-level piece of literature, or is there still some literacy learning to be done at the collegiate level? I vote for the latter. A high school graduate ought to be able to read anything printed in a newspaper, but I don't know about Patrick Henry and Edith Wharton.

Does your state/country have a high school proficiency test?

As of this morning, the fosters Bamp and Bambi seemed a little perkier. Isis must have heard the petitions.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Fostering's Not for the Faint

Yesterday I said all of my pets were the picture of health. Alas, my new feral foster kittens, Bamp and Bambi, are deathly ill. Please petition the Goddess Isis on their behalf. I'll do what I can on this end. Sometimes when I foster I just can't believe that any cats make it to adulthood.

PS - Foster kittens come with medications, etc. from the animal shelter. Otherwise I couldn't even afford to take them in.

The next 24 hours will tell.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Nobler Goal, Thanks to Heather

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Have you ever had an "Uh oh" moment, when you opened a work assignment and found it to be three times the load you thought it would be?

Dumb question. This is happening to almost every American worker who hasn't been laid off.

Anyway, that's my plight today. And how else would I spend a Saturday? It's been a long time since the word "weekend" had any meaning.

I began this web log in 2005 after reading about a woman who blogged about her sick dog and received over $500 in contributions from readers. That sounded good to me! I have a parrot, DECIBEL THE NOISY AND VICIOUS, and two cats -- Alpha the Sweet and Beta the Stupid. At present we also have two foster kittens from the animal shelter, Bamp and Bambi. They are "hissy spitties," meaning that they're feral and in need of taming.

All of these animals are the picture of health. So put your checkbook away, dear reader.

However, I did make a request on this blog about a month ago. I discovered that the dinosaur magic I'd been doing with my daughters had hit a five-year low. We had been leaving plastic dinosaurs at a local mini-park since about 2003 ... anonymously. The magic kicked in when other anonymous donors also left dinosaurs at the same site.

On occasion there have been as many as 40 dinos in the park. Last month there were none. The bench was empty. Oh, what a sad sight!

It being the Yuletide, I was unable to purchase any new used dinos at the thrift stores and flea markets that usually serve as my supply depots.

Yesterday afternoon a whopping big box arrived on my front porch. The mailman struggled up the steps with it. The box was addressed to me, but when do I get to open my mail? My daughter The Spare had at it while I situated the new foster kittens. (As hissy spitties go, they're not bad. Once a hissy spittie bit straight through my thumb.)

When the box was pried open, it was found to contain one zillion beautiful plastic dinosaurs, enough for years of magic at the park! It was a multicolored multitude of prehistory, arrayed on the living room rug ... every species imaginable, and some that are probably mostly imagination.

This was one of the best holiday gifts I received.

Thank you, Heather of Baltimore (but really Appalachia, like me), and especially your sweet son who gave up his abundanat herd of Jurassic playthings! The dinos will be parceled out sparingly and will be played with by little kids who expect to see dinosaurs at a park dedicated to a famous dinosaur.

Wow. I am blown away!